Man shouts "get out of my country" before fatal shooting
A KANSAS man has been charged with shooting dead an Indian man and wounding another Indian man and an American in a bar, in a suspected hate crime.
Adam Purinton, 51, was charged in Johnson County, Kansas, with one count of premeditated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted premeditated first-degree murder, Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe told a news conference.
Purinton is accused of shooting and killing Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, and wounding Alok Madasani, also 32, in the Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas, on Wednesday evening, according to a statement from the Olathe Police Department.
At least one bystander told the Kansas City Star that the man shouted "get out of my country" before shooting the Indian men. He is also accused of wounding American Ian Grillot, 24, who was shot when he tried to intervene, the Kansas City Star reported.
Witnesses told the Kansas City Star and The Washington Post that Purinton was thought to have been kicked out the bar Wednesday night before the shooting took place. "He seemed kind of distraught," Garret Bohnen, a regular at Austin's who was there that night told The Washington Post in an interview. "He started drinking pretty fast."
He reportedly came back into the bar and hurled racial slurs at the two Indian men, including comments that suggested he thought they were of Middle Eastern descent. When he started firing shots, Grillot, a regular at the bar whom Bohnen called "everyone's friend," intervened.
Two officials from the Indian consulate in Houston were going to Kansas to meet the injured men and police to "ascertain more details of the incident and monitor follow up action," Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Vikas Swarup said in a statement.
"I am shocked at the shooting incident in Kansas in which Srinivas Kuchibhotla has been killed. My heartfelt condolences to bereaved family," Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj said in a Tweet.
The US embassy in New Delhi condemned the shooting.
"The United States is a nation of immigrants and welcomes people from across the world to visit, work, study, and live," US Charge d'Affaires MaryKay Carlson said in a statement.
"US authorities will investigate thoroughly and prosecute the case, though we recognise that justice is small consolation to families in grief."
Howe would not elaborate on the details of the incident or the motive for the shooting.
"We want to be able to be sure about our facts versus speculation. So we are not prepared at this point to talk about the particular facts of the case because this is still very fresh," Howe said.
Kavipriya Muthuramalingam, a friend and former colleague of the shooting victim, has raised more than $250,000 via a crowd-funding website to help his family with funeral and other expenses.
"This came as an incredible shock - as he is one of the most gentle, nicest human beings you would meet," Muthuramalingam said.
"He was non-confrontational, non-controversial, easy-going, always smiling."
The killing led news bulletins in India and drew strong reactions on social media, amid growing concerns that US President Donald Trump's "America First" rhetoric on immigration and jobs has fuelled a climate of intolerance.
"Don't be shocked! Be angry! Trump is spreading hate. This is a hate crime! RIP #SrinivasKuchibhotla," Siddharth, a well known South Indian actor, tweeted to his 2.6 million followers.
Trump's election was welcomed at first by many in India who interpreted his calls to restrict immigration by Muslims as signalling support towards Hindu-majority India, which for decades has been at odds with Pakistan, its largely Muslim neighbour.
But the Trump administration also has skilled Indian workers like Kuchibhotla in mind as it considers curbing the H-1B visa program, worrying both India's $150 billion IT services industry and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government.
Kuchibhotla's Facebook page, where he called himself "Srinu", said he joined Garmin in 2014 from Rockwell Collins. He took a master's in electronics from the University of Texas in El Paso from 2005-07, according to LinkedIn. He was married but had no children.
The FBI was investigating whether the incident was a hate crime.
"We are looking at whether the crime was committed via bias motivation. We are really at the preliminary stage at looking at every aspect," said Eric Jackson, special agent in charge of the FBI's Kansas City Field Office, during the news conference.
The US attorney office in Kansas and the US Department of Justice will also evaluate the case as more evidence is gathered, Tom Beall, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Kansas said, the Kansas City Star reported.
The United States saw a wave of hate crimes, including a spike in anti-immigrant incidents, during the first month after Trump's election in November, the Southern Poverty Law Centre reported.
Kuchibhotla and Madasani were engineers who worked at Garmin as members of the Aviation Systems Engineering team, the Star reported.
"We're saddened that two Garmin associates were involved in last night's incident, and we express our condolences to the family and friends of our co-workers involved," the company said in a statement, according to the newspaper.
The suspect fled from the bar on foot and was apprehended five hours later at an Applebee's in Clinton, Missouri, where he reportedly told an employee that he needed a place to hide out because he had just killed two Middle Eastern men, the Star reported.
Purinton, who was not armed, was arrested without incident, the newspaper reported.
Purinton, a Navy veteran, was being held on a $2 million bond in the Henry County Jail, where he waived his right to fight extradition to Johnson County, the paper reported.
Additional reporting by agencies